Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mystery and Adventure??

It's true. The Almanack is stretching out to include detectives, pirates, knights, vikings, cossacks and even one-eyed sailors along with continuing coverage of cowboys. They're all pretty much the same, after all. They just wear different hats and carry different weapons.

I was a Wild West fan first, growing up in the Cowboy World of the 50s. Adventure came next, with comic books leading to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Spider. The Mystery bug bit me in 1976. I can date that only because the bug that bit me was Jim Steranko. He announced the publication of his graphic novel Chandler, and I was eager to see what it was all about.

As an aside, my friend Rick Bilyeu reacted by buying a trenchcoat and fedora and running around with a .38 in his pocket. (When I first met Rick he was dressed as Fritz Leiber's Gray Mouser, and later had a tailor make him a Battlestar Galactica uniform. You out there somewhere, Rick?) Anyway, my reaction was less extreme, but longer-lasting. Before Steranko's book was even published I'd read the first few Raymond Chandlers and was well into Hammett. Thus began a mania that lasted at least seven years.

Digging deeper into detective pulps I focussed on a group of twenty-odd writers and started collecting everything related to them. Pulps, paperbacks, digests, hardcovers, radio shows, and finally movie posters. Comics would be on that list too, but there wasn't much to collect. Memorable exceptions include a terrific comic book adaptation of The Maltese Falcon, Hammett's Secret Agent X-9 comic strips, and some Sunday funnies Wildroot Cream-Oil ads featuring the radio version of Sam Spade.

All of which brings me to the future of the Almanack. I'll be hauling some of my old Mystery and Adventure stuff out of storage (most of which I haven't seen for at least 15 years) and giving it a fresh look. But my mania for the Wild West will never die.


Richard Prosch said...

Sounds terrific! Looking forward to the additional genre posts. I haven't read Steranko's Chandler, but his bug bite led me to Captain America.

Sickly 4 Words said...

I still have my copy of Jim Steranko's Chandler. When it first came out, I saw the original artboards and noticed that he had done the entire thing using a special pencil that had india ink mixed into the carbon of the pencil. This gave him the control of a pencil with the deep, rich (photographically better) blacks of a pen or brush.

By the way, if anyone wants to know what Steranko looked like in 1976, look at the cover. It's a self portrait... in lifter heels. He was actually a short guy.

I saw Rick Bilyeu's photo associated with a Portland showing of Firefly. That's the last I've seen of him in years.